Rhodes statue to stay at Oxford

The statue of Cecil Rhodes is seen on the facade of Oriel College in Oxford, southern England. Many current students are objecting to the presence of the statue of the white supremacist empire-builder in the heart of the historic city, inspired by th
The statue of Cecil Rhodes is seen on the facade of Oriel College in Oxford, southern England. Many current students are objecting to the presence of the statue of the white supremacist empire-builder in the heart of the historic city, inspired by the Rhodes Must Fall campaign which prompted the removal of a Rhodes statue at the University of Cape Town last year.PHOTO: REUTERS

Removing it could result in Oriel College losing millions of dollars in donations

LONDON • An Oxford University statue of a 19th-century white supremacist empire-builder will not be taken down despite a heated campaign by students, the DailyTelegraph reported.

Oriel College, which owns the statue of Cecil Rhodes, has ruled out removing it over fears that it could lose donations worth some £100 million (S$204 million) if it did, the newspaper reported yesterday.

"Following careful consideration, the college's governing body has decided that the statue should remain in place," the Telegraph quoted Oriel as saying in a statement.

Rhodes gave his name to the territories of Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe and Zambia, and founded the De Beers diamond company.

The Briton was also a donor toOriel, one of the 38 colleges which make up Oxford University, and endowed the Rhodes Scholarship, which has helped non-British students, like former US president Bill Clinton and ex-Australian prime minister Tony Abbott, to study at the university.

Many current students object to the presence of his statue in the heart of the historic city, inspired by the Rhodes Must Fall campaign which prompted the removal of a Rhodes statue at the University of Cape Town last year.

"To put someone so literally on a pedestal is to tacitly condone their legacy," Ms Daisy Chandley, one of the Oxford campaign's organisers, said last month.

But others have warned against taking the statue down, saying that to do so would be to rewrite history.

South Africa's last white president, Mr F.W. de Klerk, wrote to Britain's Times newspaper last month calling the plan "folly" and adding: "If the political correctness of today were applied consistently, very few of Oxford's great figures would pass scrutiny."

Oxford's chancellor Chris Patten reportedly referred to the row in a speech this month, saying: "Our history is not a blank page on which we can write our own version of what it should have been."

The Telegraph reported thatOriel College had already seen £1.5 million in donations cancelled due to its ambiguous position on the statue and that some alumni had written in saying they were cutting the college out of their wills.

"The overwhelming message we have received has been in support of the statue remaining in place," Oriel's statement added.

"The college believes the recent debate has underlined that the continuing presence of these historical artefacts is an important reminder of the complexity of history and of the legacies of colonialism still felt today."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 30, 2016, with the headline 'Rhodes statue to stay at Oxford'. Print Edition | Subscribe